GEEKNOTE: As we approach the end of support for Windows XP, it is time to consider the replacements for it. Vista, unlamented, is no longer available. Windows 7 is still available, for a while at least (until the fall). Windows 8 / 8.1 is the version that Microsoft is pushing.
Because of unresolved issues with the user interface in Windows 8, we have steered our customers toward Windows 7. Windows 7 is rock solid and is close enough in appearance to Windows XP to make the transition relatively painless. There ARE a couple of flies in the ointment:
The Windows “Anytime Upgrade” from one version of Windows 7 to another is no longer available. If you get Windows 7 Home Premium and need to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, you are out of luck. Your only “upgrade” path is from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 8 Pro and that upgrade is twice the price of the old anytime upgrade.
The Windows license key stickers (called “COA” or Certificate of Authenticity” stickers) have gone on a diet. For the longest time, they were 2.75″ in size and the key codes covered most of the width of the stickers. The latest Windows 7 stickers are 1.75″ in width and the key code is compressed down into 3/4″ of that! My business partner and I have both been reduced to reading the key codes with a magnifying light and writing down the code before installing the operating system.
I lump this move in the same category as the requirement in Office 2013 Home & Business that you respond to an email before you can install Office with its Outlook email program… The Microsofties have forgotten about basic usability while trying to wow us with fancy features in their latest products.
So back to my original question: Does Bill Gates need glasses? I’m guessing that Mr. Gates is far enough removed from the day to day operations of Microsoft that he has never had to read one of his company’s license keys in years, much less since they reduced the font size to microscopic.
The cynic in me thinks that both of these developments are designed to push up sales of Windows 8 in the face of massive public indifference to the supposed “improvements” (eg the Metro interface) that come with Microsoft’s latest OS.
Windows 8 / 8.1 machines coming from the large manufacturers (Dell, HP, etc) don’t come with a COA license key sticker at all. The license is embedded in the system BIOS. If you’ve purchased one of these, it is CRITICAL that you make a recovery disk set and put them somewhere safe because that is all that will keep your new machine from becoming a door chock in the event of a hard drive failure or an infection that requires reinstallation of the operating system.
We saw our second Cryptolocker infected machine this past week, so don’t think it can’t happen to you. The ONLY solution for a Cryptolocker infection is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch.
The move to loading the license keys into the BIOS isn’t all bad. I can’t tell you how many systems, particularly notebooks, have come into the shop over the years with illegible COA stickers. In theory, the BIOS license info should be usable when reinstalling the OS.
Microsoft still needs to address the problems in Windows 8 / 8.1, but at least there are some work arounds in Windows 8.1. It is possible to install a third party start button to replace one missing in Windows 8 / 8.1. It is also now possible with some fancy footwork in Windows 8.1 at least to configure the system so that it drops you directly into a desktop view instead of making you deal with the metro apps first. I’m hopeful that the next Windows 8 update, due in a month or so, will address the remaining issues.
The Microsofties stumble, but they eventually seem to figure things out. Have you ever noticed that more or less every other OS release is a keeper?
Windows 3.0 (first widely available version of Windows)
Windows 3.1 (worked)
Windows 95 (okay, but created issues with DLLs)
Windows 98 (worked well, especially the second edition)
Windows ME (who?… Microsoft’s worst OS EVER)
Windows XP (Major change brought problems, but fixed with service packs)
Windows XP, SP2 and SP3 (great OS)
Windows Vista (yech… Microsoft’s infatuation with eye candy cost it.)
Windows 7 (Vista fixed. Name changed because of what a turkey Vista was).
Windows 8 (Another turkey, with much maligned Metro style interface forced on everybody)
Windows 9 (…)
I’m betting on Microsoft to get things sorted out by this time next year.
What do you think?
Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking